Our whole life destroyed, why should he live?, asks Preeti Rathi's mother
That's the only question for Preeti Rathi's family, which is bankrupt and torn apart, as HC commutes death sentence of the man who chucked acid on her
"Our entire family has been destroyed because of that boy and now the court has assured he will live all his life. Why don't they give him the death penalty? He killed my daughter, my husband died due to that shock and my son had to quit his studies to provide for the family. He must get the death penalty," said a teary-eyed Roshni Rathi, mother of Preeti who died in 2013 after being attacked with sulphuric acid by her former neighbour Ankur Panwar. Roshni was reacting to the Bombay High Court commuting his death penalty to life imprisonment.
On Wednesday, HC upheld the conviction of Ankur in the 2013 case. He had been given the death penalty in 2016 for flinging sulphuric acid on Preeti on May 2, 2013. A division bench of justices B P Dharmadhikari and P D Naik partly allowed the appeal filed by Ankur, challenging the death penalty awarded to him by a special court in 2016, and commuted it to life imprisonment.
Nurse Preeti Rathi, who died in 2013
Not just for my daughter
Upon being informed about the change in his sentence, Roshni was shocked. "I don't believe this, the person who destroyed a family doesn't deserve to live. We don't even have money now to take this matter to a higher court. Hope the government decides to appeal against the verdict. This is not just for my daughter. It's for all those girls who have been victims of such brutal attacks. This maniac doesn't have the right to live," she told mid-day.
Death broke her father
"We were looking at a brighter future, as she had managed to get a job in the Navy. Preeti was really happy to have gotten such an amazing opportunity. But because of Ankur, our dreams crashed," added Roshni. The incident deeply affected Preeti's father. Roshni said, "After the incident, my husband Amar Singh was shocked. He did not even sleep for an hour during the time she was admitted to the hospital. He would get up in the middle of his sleep calling out her name. When she died, he was broken. He was not the same person after the incident; he was always thinking about the accused's conviction. He was satisfied when Ankur was sentenced to death."
Roshni Rathi, who says the family doesn't have money to appeal. (Right) Her father Amar Singh Rathi, who died of cancer in 2017
But all the hardships took a toll on the Rathi family. Amar Singh was diagnosed with throat cancer. Hitesh, Preeti's younger brother, had to quit his studies to care for Amar Singh. "He was in degree college when he had to leave it midway. My husband lost his battle with cancer and died in 2017. Hitesh then had to take up a job to support the family; he earns a meagre amount now," Roshni said.
On May 2, 2013, Preeti, a 23-year-old nurse, came to Mumbai to start her job at the INHS Ashwini at Navy Nagar. When she got off the train from Delhi at Bandra Terminus, Ankur threw acid on her face. Preeti lost her vision and suffered major injuries.
Roshni Rathi with a photo of her late daughter Preeti
On June 1 that year, she died of multiple organ failure. Ankur, Preeti's neighbour in Delhi, revealed to the police in 2014 that he attacked her because he was jealous of her success. His parents kept taunting him for not being as successful as her. She had also allegedly turned down his proposal to marry him.
May 2, 2013: Preeti is attacked at Bandra Terminus. She suffers 12-15 per cent burns and deep internal injuries in her throat.
May 8, 2013: GRP arrests first suspect, Pawankumar Azadsingh Gahalon.
June 1, 2013: Preeti dies of multi-organ failure and cardio-respiratory arrest
June 3, 2013: Preeti is cremated. Then Home Minister R R Patil assures her family that CBI will probe the murder
Aug 5, 2013: Preeti's father approaches HC, seeking CBI inquiry into the case
Aug 9, 2013: HC grants bail to Gahalon
Nov 28, 2013: HC transfers the probe to Mumbai Police
Jan 17, 2014: Crime Branch arrests Ankur Panwar
Sep 6, 2016: Mumbai sessions court convicts Ankur for Preeti's murder
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